The Asia Foundation Supports APEC on “Covid-19, 4IR and the Future of Work” Policy Brief

July 6, 2020 — Covid-19 is an unprecedented public health crisis that has led to staggering losses in economic activity and jobs. The pandemic will accelerate the adoption of automation by firms and organizations across the region, according to a new policy brief prepared by the APEC Policy Support Unit with the support of The Asia Foundation, titled Covid-19, 4IR and the Future of Work.

Constraints on labor supply caused by movement restrictions, both domestically and globally, as well as high-risk individuals’ withdrawal from the workforce are critical factors motivating firms to automate. In addition, stimulus and relief measures launched in response to the pandemic’s economic fallout, such as lower interest rates and subsidies for going digital, have the unintended potential to incentivize further automation. These factors could contribute to spikes in unemployment as the APEC region recovers from the Covid-19 crisis.

“It is impossible for us to talk about growth when people are struggling to secure their livelihoods,” Dr. Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, executive director of the APEC Secretariat commented. “We have been mandated by ministers to prioritize the return of workers to employment. Our responsibility is to ensure that we support people at risk with greater inclusive policy instruments.”

This policy brief calls on APEC policymakers to conduct a thorough risk assessment of jobs that will be impacted, to understand the challenges faced by workers and the unforeseen effects of crisis-response policies. Access to skills development and labor market information will ensure that workers have access to opportunities in the post-pandemic digital economy, and social protection will be crucial in ameliorating job precariousness and income uncertainty.

“Policymakers need to prioritize strengthening social protection policies,” said John Karr, senior director for Technology Programs at The Asia Foundation, “expanding private sector partnerships will also help APEC monitor automation trends and support workforce upskilling and retraining.”

Read APEC’s blog, Covid-19 altered the Future of Work, authored by Dr. Denis Hew, director of the APEC Policy Support Unit.

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Related programs: Technology & Development
Related topics: APEC, The Future of Work

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